Tonight the Giants announced the signing of now former Cub and onetime San Francisco farmhand Bob Howry to a one-year/$2.75 million deal. The 35-year-old Howry, who was traded out of the Giants organization as part of the infamous "White Flag" trade between the White Sox and San Francisco back in 1997, gave the Cubs three seasons, including 234 games and 228 2/3 IP, during which he went 17-17, 3.90 with 14 saves, 12 blown saves, and 58 holds. I guess that's a lot of holds. I'm not sure. It is too silly a stat for me to do any investigating.

San Francisco Chronicle writer Henry Schulman had this to say about the deal:

Howry had terrible numbers last season with the Cubs. His ERA was 5.35 and opponents hit .309 against him with a .543 slugging percentage and .881 OPS. On the plus side, he walked only 13 batters and struck out 59 in 70 2/3 innings.

I just got off the phone with Ron Schueler, a special assistant to Sabean who, as GM of the White Sox, (engineered) the 1997 "White Flag" trade. Schueler saw Howry pitch last season and believes part of the problem was a bad start to the season and overuse by manager Lou Piniella, particularly in the number of times Howry warmed up in the bullpen without pitching.

"His numbers weren't where they were before, but the stuff was still good. The velocity was still there," Schueler said.
(Note: according to FanGraphs, Howry threw significantly fewer fastballs last year than in his previous two season with the Cubs—about 75% fastballs in '08 vs. 83% in '06 and and 86% in '07. Also, his velocity fell from 92.8 mph in '06 to 92.3 in '07 and 91.2 mph last season.)

Howry had his own take on the 2008 season, in which he was tagged for 13 HR in just 70 2/3 IP—a none too impressive 1.66 HR/9, far worse numbers than Howry has ever put together in a complete season.
"I struggled with being consistent with my mechanics," Howry said. "It's something I fought all year. I struggled to find that smooth place where it's consistent all the time. It messed with my location. It's a matter of ironing out some kinks."
Whatever the root cause of the veteran's problems last year—he had a 6.93 ERA and a 1000 OPS Against in 27 appearances following the All-Star game—I'm glad the $2.75 million that Howry will earn in 2009 are coming out of the Giants' wallet and not the Cubs'.
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